By Gail Marsh
It’s that time of year again . . . time to practice for the children’s Christmas service! Take a moment to think back to last year’s rehearsal sessions. Remember the frustration, the tears, and even the failed attempt to overthrow the director? (And these reactions came from the teachers!) If this hypothetical sounds even remotely familiar, you may be dreading this year’s practices!
We all know the simple delight of seeing little ones sweetly singing our favorite carols and hymns at Christmastime. But for those of us who have had to cajole, plead with, and, yes, even bribe the smallest of children in our care to stand and sing on cue, well . . . we know that simple delight is hard fought and not always won with a smile!
So, what can be done - short of canceling the children’s Christmas service, that is? Maybe a few suggestions from teachers and childcare professionals might be in order. Consider the following ideas.
Most importantly, keep the goal as your focus: that the Holy Spirit will work through the children’s presentation to draw attendees closer to Jesus, their Savior. Enlist the support of several prayer warriors who will pray for you, the teachers, and the children involved in the Christmas program.
Be realistic when designing your children’s Christmas service. Talk with teachers to get their insights before you make decisions about costumes, songs to be sung, staging, and more. Teachers are the ones who know their students the best. Listen to them!
Communicate with parents over and over again about practice times and places. Use social media, personal phone calls, and print materials to remind folks how important their children are to the Christmas presentation. If at all possible, give each family a recording of the entire presentation. That way, those who cannot read music will hear and teach their child the correct tune for the songs’ lyrics. Encourage families to listen to the recording as they drive from home to school or as they run errands. Not only will little ones quickly learn their parts, they will better understand how their part fits into the overall program.
Keep practice sessions short! Young children have very short attention spans. Consider practicing songs or recitations several times throughout the school day or limiting practice to the first few minutes of Sunday school, rather than in 30–45 minute practice time slots. Help the children quickly learn their songs by using rebus-style posters that depict song lyrics. Or, devise motions to put with each song. This will also ensure that students quickly and easily learn their parts.
As much as possible, let each class practice speaking parts and songs in their own classrooms. Let individual classes or small groups come one at a time to use the sanctuary or stage. Plan a first visit that includes time to explain everything the children will see (baptism font, altar, stage scenery, and so on) so that their questions are answered before the whole group practices begin.
Bring the entire group together only one or two times for final practices. Children need to get the big picture. Help them understand the flow of the program, but keep this practice time to a minimum.
Enlist the help of several volunteers for the actual performance. Seat these helpers among the students so that they can help calm any “stage fright” or discreetly handle any emergencies that arise.
Lastly, put away your perfectionist hat. Things may go awry. You’re working with children, remember? Try to strike a balance between presenting the true Christmas message and the innate excitement and unbridled joy little ones exhibit - especially at Christmas!
Don’t forget - CTA offers several gifts that are perfect for handing out after your Christmas program. Kids will love the Jesus Is the Sweetest Gift Candy Cane Pen and Bookmark or the Christ the Savior Is Born Magnet.
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